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Creatine: The Basics

Creatine: The Basics

Creatine monohydrate is one of the most popular and commonly used sports supplements on the market. Creatine is research proven to be effecitive at building muscle mass when used in conjunction with proper training and diet.

When muscles are put under a high intensity stimulus adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is broken down into a waste product adenosine diphosphate (ADP). The energy released when the breakdown of ATP occurs powers the muscle contraction.

When ATP has been depleted the muscle can longer contract and must synthesize ATP stores to continue its contraction. The fastest method is by using creatine phosphate (CP). CP is broken down to release a phosphate molecule that bonds to the ADP turning it back into ATP. This allows the muscle to continue its exertion.

Why supplement with creatine?

Supplemented creatine increases the amount of CP within muscle tissue, therefore giving more ability to synthesize ATP. Related to bodybuilding and sports, supplemented creatine allows muscle to continue with a high intensity stimulus for longer periods, meaning more reps and sets performed. This further allows the bodybuilder to overload and create mew muscle growth.

How to supplement with creatine:

There are many different opinions as to the best way to supplement with creatine.

1) Taking creatine with simple sugars such as dextrose/maltodextrin will increase its uptake.

This is true, as taking simple sugars will create a spike in insulin levels when digested. As the creatine is consumed at the same time it is transported more quickly into muscle cells. However it must be noted than muscle cells can only store a limited amount of creatine and once saturated the body will excrete any surplus. Therefore taking creatine with simple sugars is not completely necessary. Taking pure creatine monohydrate (without sugars) will saturate muscle cells, albeit at a marginally slower rate.

Taking creatine with simple sugars is effective pre and post workout to enhance your performance and recovery, as this is when muscle cells are at their most responsive to ingested nutrients. Taking simple carbs will allow the creatine to be absorbed when needed most.

At other periods such as rest days there should be no need to consume creatine with simple sugars, as a continued supplementation programme of creatine should keep stores at their peak. Furthermore it is not completely necessary to take simple sugars with creatine, as a sustained period of supplementation will create muscle saturation

2) Creatine and loading phases:

Loading usually involves taking large doses of creatine for one week to quickly saturates muscles to their maximum, a typical loading phase would look like this:

20g per day for 7 days (split into 2 10g doses or 4 5g doses separated throughout the day.

5g per day for the remainder of the cycle.

It is not completely necessary to “load” creatine. As mentioned before once creatine levels are at their peak no more can be stored. Taking a does of 5g-10g daily will after a short period saturate the muscle. “Loading” creatine will obviously saturate muscle cells at a quicker rate however be sure to choose your creatine wisely as loading creatine mixed with simple sugars can give you in excess of 600Kcal daily. Taking this amount of simple carbohydrate outside of your training window may create fat storage.

3) Will I get bloated if I take creatine?

Your body will retain more water when creatine is present, however this is one of the main benefits of creatine. Making sure your muscles are super hydrated leads to them being more efficient at using nutrients such as glycogen (muscle energy) to recover and build new muscle mass.

4) Is creatine suitable for me?

It has been shown that creatine affects the regeneration of ATP, the energy source for fast twitch muscle fibres. Therefore endurance athletes who primarily use slow twitch fibres and use an aerobic energy system may not benefit from creatine supplementation. This is why creatine is most popular is sports such as bodybuilding, rugby, football etc where short powerful bursts of energy are needed.

5) Is creatine suitable for vegetarians?

Yes! In fact vegetarians may have a more significant response to creatine supplementation as creatine is contained naturally in red meat (amongst other meats and fish)

6) Is creatine safe & are there any side effects?

Many studies have shown creatine to have no adverse side effects even with continued supplementation for up to 5 years. A poor quality creatine supplement may have higher levels of certain contaminants such as creatinine, dicyandiamide and dihydrotriazines. Taking these for prolonged periods may have an adverse affect on health (mainly kidney function). When choosing a creatine supplement be sure to buy from a reputable brand and try and look for a certificate of analysis.

Your 6 week creatine strength and mass plan (other supplements are included for optimum growth)

Week 1:

Post workout shake 10g creatine mixed with sugars, 30g protein powder. Or 10g pure creatine and about 80g carbohydrate from fast acting sources such as fruit, potatoes, white rice, honey.

10g creatine before bed (pure creatine)

Week 2:

10g creatine post workout with simple sugars (or 80g carbohydrate such as above) and 1 scoop of protein (about 30g)

Week 3-8:

As above

8 week workout regime:

Monday: upper body

Chest 3 x 5-8

Power clean lift 3 x 5-8

Row (change between barbell dumbbell and t-bar rows) 3 x 5-8

Biceps (change between barbell, dumbbell) 2 x 5-8

Triceps (change between skull crushers, pushdowns, close grip bench press) 2 x 5-8

Tuesday: lower body

Squats 3 x 5-8

Stiff leg dead lift 3 x 5-8

Hack squats 2 x 5-8

Calf raises 2 x 5-8



Thursday: (hypertrophy)

Back (row, pull up/pull down, back extensions) 3 x 12-15

Chest (incline press, flat press, cable crossover) 3 x 12-15



Saturday: (hypertrophy)

Shoulders (front raises, Arnold press, rear raises) 3 x 12-15

Arms (bicep 2 exercises tricep 3 exercises) 3 x 12-15



Take 4-7 days off before starting a new regime.